The Law and Logics of Attribution: Constructing the Identity and Responsibility of States and Firms

Date: 
Friday, September 18, 2020 - 1:00pm to 5:00pm
Location: 
Zoom ID Provided After Registration

When private companies perform governmental functions and governments own companies, which acts should be attributed to the state? Which should be attributed to the corporation? And whose religious beliefs, speech rights, and moral standing can those entities claim?

In international law, scholars and practitioners struggle to attribute rights and responsibilities between state and private entities in areas as diverse as military contracting, environmental accountability, human rights, international investment, and cyber espionage and warfare. In the corporate governance realm, attributing responsibility to entities is increasingly challenging in the context of globally dispersed corporate families with intricate parent-subsidiary structures; identity attribution has also produced headlining debates.

While attribution questions fuel important conversations in both corporate and international law, the two literatures are not often in conversation. Questions of attribution in both domains nevertheless are becoming more complex and urgent, and the fields increasingly intersect: In some areas of law, attribution doctrines must determine the dividing line between states and firms. Doctrines of attribution construct the public domain, and thereby also the private. Attribution questions in both domains reinvigorate classic inquiries about the nature of a corporation, the relationship between private entities and the state, and the proper function of the law in mediating between the two.

Organized by Post Professor Melissa "M.J." Durkee, this conference will draw together corporate and international legal scholars, as well as thinkers outside the law, in order to cross-pollinate these two fields and the questions at their intersection, and to unearth promising theoretical tools. It will consider theoretical and doctrinal approaches to attribution, potential consequences of these approaches, and whether they may reconcile the ambiguities and deficiencies that drive current debates. The project aims to offer a new point of entry to enduring theoretical and doctrinal questions about the nature of corporations, of states, and of the relationship between them. It is particularly relevant at a time where corporations are “jurisdictionally ambiguous and spatially diffuse,” states are deferential, dependent or outflanked, and multilateralism is at an ebb.

NOTE: This conference takes place both Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 from 1-5 p.m. both days. Registration is required. The event can accommodate a limited number of additional attendees. If interested, please email mjdurkee@uga.edu and note which session(s) you would like to join.

This virtual forum is co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law; the Society’s Interest Group on International Legal Theory;and the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Contact Name: 
Catrina Martin
Contact Email: 

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